Code of Conduct

Code of Conduct for GSA members and attendees for all GSA events and activities

The Governing Council prioritises the wellbeing of its members and, to support that, recognises the need for a Code of Conduct to outline expectations of behaviour for both members and non-members at GSA-related activities and events. The Governing Council, in consultation with Divisional and Branch committees, has developed a new Code of Conduct that we present here. The Code will help us define our societal values and guide our behaviours. It will help us create and strengthen our diversity by building an inclusive and respectful environment that members find welcoming and open.

Events and activities run by the GSA are first and foremost aimed to bring together members and non-members from all backgrounds to interact, network, debate, discuss, socialise and enjoy all aspects of geoscience and related fields that come under the umbrella of the organisation. This Code of Conduct provides guiding principles of conduct for all members of the GSA when participating in any GSA-based activity and for non-members when participating in any GSA-based event. A GSA-based activity or event could include meetings, workshops, conferences, fieldtrips, publishing, committee and any other volunteer work. The Code is also designed to manage, or create a pathway to manage, undesirable behaviour. The Governing Council recommends that registration for any GSA event or activity includes an agreement from the registrant to abide by the Code.

This Code of Conduct is separate to the existing Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for members of the Society that was introduced in 2016 as part of the Accredited Geoscientist program. When developing the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, and based on much consultation and feedback, the Governing Council made the decision to keep that Code separate from a Code of Conduct. In essence, the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is related to professional practice, including research integrity and factual geological reporting, whereas the Code of Conduct directly sets standards for our behaviour and articulates our values. In short, a person’s conduct and behaviour at a GSA-related event or activity has to meet GSA member-approved guidelines.

There are two parts to the GSA Code of Conduct — Part A: Code of Conduct and Part B: Disciplinary Actions.

Part A: Geological Society of Australia Code of Conduct

The Geological Society of Australia (GSA) represents all Earth Scientists with a mission to promote and advance all Earth Science disciplines. The GSA practices good governance and management and encourages professional development for all members.

This Code of Conduct provides guiding principles of conduct for all GSA members when participating in a GSA-based activity, and for non-members when participating in a GSA-based activity. A GSA-based activity can include meetings, workshops, conferences, fieldtrips, publishing, committee and other volunteer work.

This Code of Conduct complements the GSA’s Code of Ethics. While the Code of Conduct promotes respectful behaviour and general good conduct, the Code of Ethics requires members to practise their profession according to agreed professional ethical standards.

  1. GSA members are expected to act in a courteous and respectful manner at all times.
  2. The GSA and its members promote equality of opportunity, regardless of age, race, nationality, gender, sexuality, religion, disability, ethnicity, marital status, political affiliation or culture.
  3. GSA will not tolerate any form of harassment or bullying, which is defined as repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards its members, staff or any other person participating in a GSA-based activity. This includes (but is not limited to): abusive or offensive language or comments, aggressive and intimidating behaviour, belittling or humiliating comments, practical jokes or initiation rituals and unjustified criticism or complaint.
  4. Communication will be fair and open and should be appropriate for people of many different backgrounds.
  5. Conflicts will be resolved in a fair and objective manner to produce an effective solution.
  6. When undertaking any GSA-related activity, GSA members will not compromise the safety, welfare or health of the community or themselves.
  7. When undertaking any GSA-related activity, GSA members are expected to seek permission for access to sites from relevant landowners and/or caretakers, including Traditional Owners where appropriate and/or applicable.
  8. When undertaking any GSA-related activity, GSA members will endeavour to be respectful of the heritage values of geological field sites and will avoid and/or limit sampling accordingly. Special consideration should be given to the preservation of geoheritage and geotourism sites, and Aboriginal Heritage Register sites (refer to relevant state or government pages, where appropriate).

GSA members, or non-members attending a GSA event, who do not comply with this Code of Conduct will be subject to investigation. Breaches of the GSA Code of Conduct may result in disciplinary action (defined in Part B). GSA will refer to Part B: Breaches of the Geological Society of Australia Code of Conduct and the relevant legislation in all aspects of the Code of Conduct, and will work according to Best Practice guidelines.

Part B: Breaches of the Geological Society of Australia Code of Conduct

This document outlines the procedure for identifying and investigating breaches of the Geological Society of Australia (GSA) Code of Conduct and how they should be referred. It also outlines the prescribed disciplinary actions.

Definitions

A Delegate is defined as a financial GSA member or an appropriate Intermediary who is responsible for investigating the alleged Code of Conduct breach.

Appointment of the Delegate: The Delegate or Intermediary is to be appointed by the Executive Committee of the Governing Council.

Role of the Delegate: To lead the investigation into the alleged breach. The Delegate may ask other GSA or non-GSA members who are impartial to the investigation for assistance.

A Respondent is defined as the GSA member (or non-member attending a GSA event at the time of the incident) alleged to have breached the GSA Code of Conduct.

A Sanction Delegate is defined as the person recommending the sanction to the Executive Committee.

Appointment of the Sanction Delegate: The Sanction Delegate is appointed by the Executive Committee of the Governing Council.

Role of the Sanction Delegate: To recommend to the Executive Committee the applicable sanction (if any).

A Reporting Person is defined as someone who reports the alleged breach.

Role of the Reporting Person: To report the alleged breach.

A Witness may be the Reporting Person and is defined as someone who witnessed the alleged breach.

Role of the Witness: To document and provide details of the alleged breach.

The process of handling alleged breaches of the GSA Code of Conduct comprises two stages:

  • determine whether a breach of the Code of Conduct has occurred; and
  • decide what, if any, disciplinary action(s) is appropriate.
  • Alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct will be referred to the:
  • local Division Chair, where a breach is minor or has occurred at a local meeting or event
  • Specialist Group Chair, if related to a Specialist Group activity, where a breach is minor or has occurred at a Specialist Group meeting or event
  • CEO and President of the GSA, if the Reporting Person/Witness is not satisfied with the Division or Specialist Group outcome or if the Division or Specialist Group does not choose to manage the alleged breach
  • CEO and President of the GSA, if the breach has occurred at a national event or if the breach is of a serious enough nature to be referred to the GSA Governing Council, or where otherwise appropriate.

Reporting process

All reports of alleged breaches of the Code will be dealt with in a private and confidential manner as per obligations under the Privacy Act 1988. Except where public safety is at risk, a member’s privacy is to be strictly observed, and the matter treated confidentially.

Only people with a genuine ‘need to know’ are made aware of a report of an alleged breach of the Code. These people include:

  • the member against whom the complaint has been made, their support persons
  • witnesses to the alleged breach (if applicable)
  • the independent investigator (Delegate).

The mechanism for anyone who wishes to raise a breach with GSA is to first report to the local Division/Branch Chair. However, if the Reporting Person is not comfortable raising it with the Chair, they may directly contact the President, the CEO or a member of the National Executive of the GSA. This course of action is particularly important if the suspected breach concerns a committee member. Where possible the GSA will ensure that the Delegate and Sanction Delegate are different people.

It is important for the Reporting Person to document the alleged breach by noting essential details such as where it occurred, who was involved, what happened, and keeping it factual. This documentation should be kept private and passed on to the GSA committee or Executive Committee member who agrees to assist with the investigation.

Investigation process

The GSA takes the view that not all cases of alleged breaches need to be dealt with by a formal investigation. The GSA aims to address alleged breaches as quickly and informally as the circumstances allow. Once the Delegate has been appointed to investigate the alleged breach, the Reporting Person will be notified.

A number of decisions will be made in the process of handling allegations of Code of Conduct breaches, including:

  • the initial decision as to how to handle the report of the alleged breach
  • reporting any criminal activity to the Police
  • deciding whether to suspend a member during the investigation of the alleged breach
  • deciding whether the alleged breach has occurred and, if so, whether the alleged behaviour constitutes a breach of the GSA Code of Conduct.

During an investigation into an alleged breach of the Code of Conduct, the person whose interest may be adversely affected by a decision will:

  • be informed by the Delegate (in writing) of the allegations against them in as much detail as possible to enable them to understand the nature of the alleged breach
  • be provided with reasonable time (usually 7 working days) to respond to the allegation in writing
  • have their response taken into account in the decision-making process.

Upon receiving an allegation of misconduct in breach of the GSA Code of Conduct, the Delegate will follow these steps:

  • assess the seriousness of the alleged breach and whether the allegation should be investigated formally
  • for serious allegations, or if conduct has not improved using informal solutions, the Delegate may decide that a formal investigation is required
  •  notify the Respondent in writing and advise of:
    • the nature of the alleged breach
    • the elements of the Code of Conduct that they are alleged to have breached
    • the possible sanctions that may apply for breaches of the Code of Conduct
    • the person(s) who will investigate the alleged breach
    • the person(s) who will decide whether a breach has occurred
    • how the process will be conducted.
  • If at any time the details of the alleged breach(es) change, including if additional documents or material are supplied upon which the Delegate will rely in making a decision, the Respondent will be informed and invited to make a further statement.
  • Contraventions of the Code of Conduct may result in imposed sanctions, decided by the Sanction Delegate who will lead the decision. Sanctions may include but are not limited to:
    • a reprimand/warning
    • removal of committee positions/titles (eg, Fellow, if applicable)
    • cancellation of membership for a set period of month(s)/year(s) depending upon the severity of the Code of Conduct breach — the Respondent may reapply at the end of this sanction period
    • termination of membership and expulsion from the GSA — with no future prospects for reapplication
    • for non-members, banishment from all future GSA events.

The respondent has three opportunities to provide input or comment on the investigation of the allegations against them. They may respond to the:

1.     specific allegations against them
2.     evidence that emerges during the course of the investigation and the Delegate’s interpretation of that evidence
3.     proposed disciplinary action.

Once an investigation has occurred and the Sanction Delegate has made a decision as to the actions resulting from the alleged breach, both the Respondent and the Reporting Person will be notified in writing.

Documentation and privacy

Documentation plays an important part of the process bearing in mind that at all stages, all persons involved in an alleged breach of conduct must have their privacy protected. The Federal Executive Committee will formally record the incident to ensure that the responses and outcomes of the investigation are adequately documented for future reference if needed. Access to these documents will be restricted to the Federal Executive Committee.

Secure storage of this documentation is important, as it will allow the Executive to review previous records to see whether similar incidents have occurred previously, and to assist local Divisions and branches with identifying continued breaches of the Code of Conduct.

This document will be updated periodically with improvements and changes to GSA policies.

The Code of Conduct was published in September 2020.